It’s so easy to accumulate lots and lots of stuff over the years. Sometimes, before you even know it, as kids move up and out and you’re left with a big, empty house, those spare bedrooms fill up with all sorts of bric-a-brac that you really don’t need and you certainly never use. And this says nothing about the garage or the basement you’ve been using as a repository all this time, either.
Then, finally, it comes time to retire. As you become interested in downsizing to a smaller, more modest home that fits better with your new lifestyle, you’ve suddenly got a seemingly monumental task in front of you: all this stuff that you’re definitely not interested in keeping but you’ve got to do something with. Well, don’t lose hope: here’s the perfect guide to sorting the wheat from the chaff so you can say goodbye to decades of clutter.
There’s No Time Like the Present
Most people wait until they’re ready to retire and move on to a smaller abode before getting rid of the things they’ve accumulated over the decades. However, there’s no bad time to start decluttering your home. In fact, putting it off for the eventual “tomorrow” is a bad idea, as this means you’re making more work for yourself in the long run.
The real reason you want to start early, especially if you’re considering downsizing in retirement, is that you’re likely to have multi-generational clutter in your existing home. This means you’ve got not just your stuff but stuff leftover from when you were raising your children and, in many cases, stuff left behind from your parents’ generation that you might have inherited. The sooner you get a jump on it, the less overbearing it will seem, and the less frustrated you’ll be when it comes time to move into that downsized home.
Starting Off Easy
Decluttering can certainly feel overwhelming, which is why so many of us leave it to the last minute. But there are ways that you can get the process started much more painlessly, and that’s by choosing to get rid of things that it will be easy to part with. An example of things that you should have little trouble parting with include:
- Clothing that you haven’t worn in years because it no longer fits, is way out of style, or is stained or ripped
- Paper clutter such as multiple copies, empty envelopes, or the manual for that toaster oven you no longer even have
Older media is often easy to get rid of as well. Music, for example, can be found online through services like Spotify, freeing you up to get rid of those mounds of CDs or cassettes. Movies on DVD or VHS collecting dust? As long as it’s available on a streaming service like Netflix, you can deep-six those physical copies as well. Even old photographs and slides can take up less room, and be protected from future deterioration, simply by scanning them into your computer and saving digital versions of the files. All of this lets you keep hard copies of important stuff without the risk of adding to your clutter!
Avoid Emotional Traps
Emotional attachment to clutter you might not even want to keep is another problem that you can face while you’re trying to prepare for a downsize. This is a common issue that we almost all face in our lives, especially when we have items in our home that represent past history. Your great-grandmother’s china set is huge, heavy, and takes up an entire cabinet in your kitchen, but you couldn’t possibly get rid of that, right? It’s a family heirloom! So what if you’ve never actually eaten off it, even for special occasions?
The good news is you can preserve your emotional attachment to such things by keeping a small sample of a larger collection. Keep one place setting from that china set, and perhaps display it in your dining room. If it’s too painful to consign to the darkness of a thrift shop or the dump, ask your family members such as your adult children if they want it. If they say no, though, that’s a clear indicator that it’s time to separate yourself emotionally from it. You’re not running a warehouse for antiques, even if they were originally expensive gifts. If you haven’t used it in months or even years, that’s not going to change once you downsize.
You Don’t Have to Throw Everything Out
One of the biggest myths about decluttering before a downsize is that you’ve got to toss out anything and everything that isn’t nailed down. Yet that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Decluttering is much more about organizing your life, finding what things are the most important to you and what you need versus what you simply want. This means that if something is truly meaningful, you can find ways to make it work, even in a smaller space.
You don’t have to be completely ruthless when it comes to the things that truly matter. In fact, if you can get rid of enough of the truly useless clutter, this frees you up for preserving those things that are truly too precious for you to part with. No one is going to tell you to throw out that homemade Christmas ornament your kids made for you that bears their little handprints when they were in kindergarten!
Rehome Your Stuff Before Throwing It Out
Even if you know you don’t have room for someone in your new retirement home, you won’t always necessarily want to send it to the landfill. It’s a much more fullfilling option to find new homes for your things. Start by asking your family if they want anything. Chances are that they will gladly take some of your prized possessionsyou’re your hands. Other options such as garage sales or selling through Craigslist or other online services means that you can free yourself of some unwieldy clutter and even make a few bucks as well if you’re lucky.
If you can’t find anyone interested in buying your old items, there are plenty of places that will take donations, such as Goodwill, the Salvation Army, or Habitat for Humanity. At the end of the day, the less stuff you have to cart away to the dump, the better!
In these uncertain times, Acts Retirement-Life Communities is here to help. For more information on retirement or how to plan your next chapter in a recession, read these articles by Acts Retirement-Life Communities:
- What is the Average Cost of a Senior Independent Living Community?
- How to Prepare for a Recession if You Are Retired
- Should I Sell My Home During a Recession?